Hundreds turn out to taste bon season

KAPA‘A — Hundreds of people celebrated the final bon dance hosted by the Kaua‘i Buddhist Council this season, Friday, at the Kapa‘a Hongwanji Mission.

Bon is a Buddhist tradition and celebration which grew in Hawai‘i through what Gerald Hirata, a retired Kaua‘i Community College instructor and head of the Hanapepe Zenshuji Temple, describes as “Plantation Buddhist Churches.” The tradition arrived with the Japanese immigrants who came to Hawai‘i to work in the plantations.

The traditional Buddhist practice started when one of Buddha’s disciples had a vision of his deceased mother suffering, and following a period of meditation and contemplation, his mother’s suffering was relieved, sending the disciple into dances of joy.

Bon remembers those who have passed before us. In Japan, it is a time when families return home to celebrate in belief that spirits of the ancestors come back to the earthly world during the bon season.

The Kapa‘a Hongwanji Mission marks the end of nine bon dances celebrated on Kaua‘i, coinciding with the end of the bon season.

Among those celebrating the bon dance Friday in Kapa‘a were residents of Mahelona Hospital and the Regency at Puakea, who were ringside to enjoy the dancing while their respective staff and volunteers fetched some of the bon dance delicacies.

“One of our residents came with an oxygen bottle,” said Josie Pablo, the Mahelona Hospital recreation director. “This is her first outing and she was excited to come, even with the oxygen bottle.”

Pablo said the residents were bussed to the event and many of the residents’ families came to help.

Aram Keuilian of the Regency said they bussed about 20 of their residents and took advantage of the special area the church set aside for the kupuna.

Similar to how the plantation Buddhist churches spread the bon celebration throughout the Hawaiian Islands, two more bon celebrations will take place this year starting at 6 p.m., Friday, at the Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital lawn.

This first-ever event hosted by the KVMH Auxiliary is open to the public with parking available at Waimea Canyon Middle School. The Auxiliary will offer food booth and entertainment with dancing to start at 6:30 p.m.

One of the performing groups is the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko, who will be doing an extended performance, according to one of its parent-advisers.

The final bon dance will be hosted by Mahelona Hospital in its courtyard on Aug. 18, a practice which started when the hospital and its auxiliary decided to bring the bon dance to the residents who could not make the trip into the community for the events.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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